Black Wave
The bestselling author of The Secretary: A Journey with Hillary Clinton from Beirut to the Heart of American Power tells the gripping story of the real roots of the Middle East Sunni-Shia conflict in the 1979 Iran Revolution that changed the region forever.Black Wave is a paradigm-shifting recasting of the modern history of the Middle East, telling the largely unexplored story of the rivalry between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran--a rivalry born out of the sparks of the 1979 Iranian revolution--that has dramatically transformed the culture, identity, and collective memory of millions of Muslims over four decades. Like George Packer did in The Unwinding, Kim Ghattas follows everyday citizens whose lives have been affected by the geopolitical drama, making her account both immediate and intimate.Most Americans assume that extremism, Sunni-Shia antagonism, and anti-Americanism have always existed in the Middle East, but prior to 1979, Saudi Arabia and Iran were working allies. It was only after that year--a remarkable turning point--that Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia began to use religion as a tool in their competition for dominance in the region, igniting the culture wars that led to the 1991 American invasion of Iraq, the September 11th terrorist attacks, and the rise of ISIS.Ghattas shows how Saudi Arabia and Iran went from allies against the threat of communism from Russia, with major roles in the US anti-Soviet strategy, to mortal enemies that use religious conservatism to incite division and unrest from Egypt to Pakistan. Black Wave will significantly influence both perception of and conversation about the modern history of the Middle East.

Black Wave Details

TitleBlack Wave
Author
ReleaseJan 28th, 2020
PublisherHenry Holt and Co.
ISBN-139781250131201
Rating
GenreHistory, Nonfiction, Politics, Cultural, Iran, Religion, Islam

Black Wave Review

  • Sumit RK
    January 1, 1970
    Black Wave is an insightful history of Middle Eastern conflict and why the Middle East is in a state of turmoil today. Award-winning journalist and author Kim Ghattas argues that the turning point in the modern history of the Middle East can be located in three major events in 1979: The Iranian revolution; the siege of the Holy Mosque in Mecca; and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Before this year, Saudi Arabia and Iran had been working allies and twin pillars of US strategy in the region - Black Wave is an insightful history of Middle Eastern conflict and why the Middle East is in a state of turmoil today. Award-winning journalist and author Kim Ghattas argues that the turning point in the modern history of the Middle East can be located in three major events in 1979: The Iranian revolution; the siege of the Holy Mosque in Mecca; and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Before this year, Saudi Arabia and Iran had been working allies and twin pillars of US strategy in the region - but the radical legacy of these events made them mortal enemies, unleashing a process that transformed culture, society, religion, and geopolitics across the region for decades to come.Kim Ghattas unpacks layers of history and politics to understand the transformation of the region as a whole. With vivid storytelling, extensive historical research and on-the-ground reporting, Ghattas explore how Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran, once allies and twin pillars of US strategy in the region, became mortal enemies after 1979. She shows how the competition that went well beyond geopolitics and how this rivalry for religious and cultural supremacy has fed intolerance, encouraged violence, the creation of groups like Hezbollah and ISIS and, ultimately, destroyed the lives of millions. Black Wave deals not only with rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia, but also Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Egypt. The Israel-Palestine conflict plays only a supporting role. US foreign policy, often crucial to the region’s geopolitics also gets only a passing mention. The geopolitical rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia, two countries takes the center stage. It’s like Iran & Saudi Arabia are battling for control in a never-ending game of chess. Indeed, Black Wave is crafted like a thriller but with countries as characters in the story. What makes the book special is that Ghattas narrates the story through the stories of a riveting cast of characters whose lives were changed completely by the geopolitical drama over four decades. These are not fictional characters but real people; from the Pakistani television anchor who defied her country’s dictator, to the Egyptian novelist thrown in jail for his writings all the way to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. Black Wave is both an intimate account of real-life experiences and sweeping history of the region narrated through the lives of people.Ghattas has a distinct and free-flowing style of writing and the book does an excellent job in demystifying the complex history and geopolitics of the region. Meticulously researched and extremely readable, the book attempts to make sense of the region’s many troubles. The story keeps shifting from country to country without getting confusing. The western media has often reduced matters of extraordinary depth and complexity to a snapshot but this book attempts to decipher the complex events from several viewpoints. If you are interested in history and world events, this book is a must-read. Many thanks to the publishers Henry Holt and Co and Macmillans and Edelweiss for the ARC.
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  • Paige
    January 1, 1970
    ***Top book of 2020 for me.***The cultural and political changes in the Middle East were brought to life and breathed into each page beginning with the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The claim for the book is that the pivotal year of 1979 generated much of the conflict that is seen currently; so, we must understand 1979 at every angle in order to comprehend the Middle East of today. Because 1979 is the foundation for shaping the premise of the book, Part 1 which is 4 chapters (or 23 % on a Kindle) ***Top book of 2020 for me.***The cultural and political changes in the Middle East were brought to life and breathed into each page beginning with the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The claim for the book is that the pivotal year of 1979 generated much of the conflict that is seen currently; so, we must understand 1979 at every angle in order to comprehend the Middle East of today. Because 1979 is the foundation for shaping the premise of the book, Part 1 which is 4 chapters (or 23 % on a Kindle) heavily centers around the 1979 Revolution. The thesis is extremely well supported with exceptional research throughout each chapter reaching up to the year 2019. The reader sees the geopolitics in each region surrounding events that eventually lead to world developments such as the Iran hostage crisis, the emergence of Hezbollah in Lebanon, the 9/11 attacks in the U.S., and the growth of ISIS. We often always ask, "Why?" and this book attempts to explain the why. *This is an intense book because it is eclipsed with several assassinations, insurmountable deaths, and extreme suffering.* (There was not a lot about the Kurds. There was not much about Yemen until the end.)There were quite a few names in the beginning that I was unfamiliar with. All of those involved and mentioned were important, but it took some adjusting on my part to remember who was who. Because of that, I would recommend reading this on a Kindle. Key figures (not limited to) : Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Musa al-Sadr, Juhayman al-Otaybi, Ruhollah Khomeini, Zia-ul-Haq, Saddam Hussein, Bin Baz, Osama Bin Laden, George H.W. Bush, Sadegh Khalkhali, Jamal Khashoggi, Qassem Suleimani, Mohammed Morsi, Nuri al-Maliki, Rafiq Hariri, Hafez al-Assad, Hassan Nasrallah, Crown Prince Abdallah, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Moqtada al-Sadr, Mansour al-Mansour, Nasr Abu Zeid, Salman al-Audah, King Fahd, Safar al-Hawali, Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz SharifThank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an advanced copy. Opinions are my own."I started this project with the full awareness that the extremist partisans on either side of the Saudi-Iran divide would find fault with everything I wrote- or perhaps they would pick apart the sections that depict them and applaud passages about their nemeses. I did not write this book for them. I wrote it for peers and colleagues and a wider audience of readers who want to understand why events in the Middle East continue to reverberate around the world. I wrote it for those who believe the Arab and Muslim words are more than the unceasing headlines about terrorism, ISIS, or the IRGC. Perhaps above all I wrote it for those of my generation and younger in the region who are still asking, "What happened to us?" and who wonder why their parents didn't, or couldn't, do anything to stop the unraveling." -Kim Ghattas, Black Wave More on this: Watch author Kim Ghattas talk about Iran-Saudi relations here on the Trevor Noah show Watch author Kim Ghattas on CNBC discussing Qasem Soleimani's death Follow Kim Ghattas onTwitter or Facebook. Read The Guardian's review for Black Wave.Take a look at Kim Ghattas book tour datesAbove is the iconic dupatta burning protest in Pakistan against Zia. Click here to read more.
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  • Mikey B.
    January 1, 1970
    The author poses the question “What happened to us?” – meaning what happened to the people of the Middle East, the Muslim world from Egypt to Pakistan. Many of these areas had wonderful pockets of free thought, with entertainment where women and men were able to mix freely together (obviously this has never been the case for Saudi Arabia). This is no longer the case.Page 231 (my book) IraqThe land of biblical Eden and cradle of civilization that had given the world one of its seven wonders, the The author poses the question “What happened to us?” – meaning what happened to the people of the Middle East, the Muslim world from Egypt to Pakistan. Many of these areas had wonderful pockets of free thought, with entertainment where women and men were able to mix freely together (obviously this has never been the case for Saudi Arabia). This is no longer the case.Page 231 (my book) IraqThe land of biblical Eden and cradle of civilization that had given the world one of its seven wonders, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon; the Arab country with the first women cabinet minister in 1959 and where women were given equal rights in the constitution of 1970; the birthplace of the renowned architect Dame Zaha Hadid; the nation where artists at the Fine Arts Academy painted nudes and masterpieces – that Iraq was no more.Kim Ghattas (the author) gives the year 1979 as the starting point where everything just got worse.Three events happened that year”1) The Ayatollah Khomeini set up his theocracy in Iran after the Shah left.2) The attack on Islam’s holiest site the Holy Mosque in Mecca by a group of Islamic zealots led by Juhayman al-Otaibi who felt that the Kingdom was abandoning the purity of Islam. This siege lasted for several days and hundreds died.3) The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.When Iran became a theocracy (The Islamic Republic of Iran) there were several left-wing militants in the entourage of the Ayatollah who thought they could control the old man. Unfortunately for them it was the other way around. Many perished, others spent their lives in prison and women came to have far less rights than they had had under the Shah.Page 77 (my book) IranNow there was only one stance, one narrative allowed… Foreign influence had to be ripped out of books and minds. The purge was everywhere, a reign of terror that would last ten years…. The brutality of the SAVAK [under the Shah] paled in comparison to what was meted out in the new Islamic Republic dreamed up by Khomeini.As the author points out the return to puritanical Islam in Iran, Egypt, Lebanon, Pakistan and Afghanistan was against women – where their roles in society became more and more restricted – where they had to cover their hair and even their faces for fear of punishment, humiliation and imprisonment. Some of the funding for this was provide by Saudi petro-dollars.Page 192 on the migrant workers in Saudi ArabiaImmersed in the Saudi lifestyle and worldview, many kept the habits they picked up there – the flowing white robe, the niqab or face veil for the women, the more assiduous praying, and the denunciation of Sufism, intercession of saints, and Shias. In Pakistani villages, the Syrian countryside, or rural Egypt, migrant workers who had struck it rich in the Arabian Peninsula built mosques to show off their new wealth and piety, installing preachers trained in Saudi Arabia. This submergence in the Saudi way of life covered everything, including women.Aside from the rise of suicide bombers there was a growth in the concept of blasphemy and apostasy against non-Muslims and Muslims. The barriers around who was a good Muslim became narrower. The Sunni-Shia divide became violent, particularly after the American invasion of Iraq in 2003.Page 183Salman Rushdie… survived the death threats. But the Japanese and Turkish translators of his book, and the publisher of the Norwegian one, were all assassinated for their association with Rushdie. Others with no connection to Rushdie would soon be felled or have their lives wrecked by accusations of blasphemy. Death by blasphemy has now been introduced to the Muslim world by a strange twist in the competition between Iran and Saudi Arabia to position themselves as the standard bearer of global Islam.The Islamist revolution in Iran inspired many other Islamist groups like the Wahabis in Saudi Arabia to install similar puritanical theocracies. They saw opportunities in Pakistan and funnelled money and men into Afghanistan and the millions of Afghan refugees in Pakistan. Saudi Arabia was using its vast petro-money to spread its ideology to mosques and madrassas across the globe. It was also a way to get rid of its self-created fanatics with the will to become martyrs, by sending them out to Afghanistan, then Iraq, and ISIS.Page 214 Mansour al-Nogaidan“I cannot but wonder at our officials and pundits who continue to claim that Saudi society loves other nations and wishes them peace, when state-sponsored preachers in some of our largest mosques continue to curse and call for the destruction of all non-Muslims.”The Americans only added to the Sunni-Shia divide. After the first Gulf War in 1991 Saddam took extreme vengeance on the Shia’s who had briefly rebelled thinking that the U.N. forces under U.S. command were coming to liberate them. It was all to get much worse after the second Gulf War of 2003.There are many personal examples in this book of those who have been persecuted by the religious police in their countries – of how both men and women tried to overcome the religious restraints imposed on them. One is of Masih Alinejad of Iran who wrote the book “The Wind in My Hair’. The author knew personally Jamal Khashoggi who was brutally assassinated in the Saudi Arabian embassy in Turkey.She points out the many rivalries between Iran and Saudi Arabia over the years, with each trying to outdo the other in puritanism and influence. Saudi Arabia has money and stronger ties to Washington. Iran has Hezbollah and Lebanon. Each is competing for dominance in Iraq and Syria. The Saudi’s helped orchestrate the downfall of Morsi in Egypt because he was getting too close to Iran.Page 289-90ISIS was a Saudi progeny, the by-product of decades of Saudi-driven proselytizing and funding of a specific school of thought that crushed all others, but it was also a rebel child, a reaction to Saudi Arabia’s own hypocrisy, as it claimed to be an Islamic state while being an ally of the West.This is an intense book. There are only a few signs of hope, most of them coming from those who have been forced to flee.
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  • Susan
    January 1, 1970
    Without doubt this is an important, informative, well-researched and essential read, for anyone who is interested in the Middle East. It takes the reader from 1979 to the recent murder of Saudi journalist, Jamam Khashoggi, and endeavours to explain the quest that author, and journalist, Kim Ghattas poses, “What happened to us?” For Kim Ghattas has covered Middle Eastern politics for over twenty years, for the BBC and the Financial Times and was born, and raised, in Lebanon. It seems that the Without doubt this is an important, informative, well-researched and essential read, for anyone who is interested in the Middle East. It takes the reader from 1979 to the recent murder of Saudi journalist, Jamam Khashoggi, and endeavours to explain the quest that author, and journalist, Kim Ghattas poses, “What happened to us?” For Kim Ghattas has covered Middle Eastern politics for over twenty years, for the BBC and the Financial Times and was born, and raised, in Lebanon. It seems that the Middle East is constantly exploding into violence, but Ghattas argues that the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which she puts as central to the region’s history, has remained largely unexplored, despite its importance in the regions history. In this book she takes us back to 1979, looking at the major events of that period – the Iranian revolution and the Siege of the Holy Mosque in Mecca by Soviet zealots, along with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.This volume takes the reader through the history of not only Saudi Arabia and Iran, but also looks at Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Pakistan and Syria. It is a disturbing, but fascinating read, which makes you understand, far better, the shifting alliances, the reason for the rise of religious fundamentalism, the tensions between the ancient schism of Shia and Sunni, the desire to control religious shrines and the hunger for power.Although this is, obviously, well-researched, it is never dry, or difficult to understand. Indeed, I was immediately pulled into the narrative and it has made me interested in reading much more about the history, and politics, of this volatile and misunderstood region. Ghattas weaves the history of each country together, explaining the links between different groups and factions, of the changes within those countries and states some truly revealing statistics. Just as an example, in 1985, 6% of books published in Egypt were religious. By1995, 85% of books had a religious theme. In the 1970’s, 30% of Egyptian women wore a headscarf – by the mid 1990’s, 65% of women covered their hair. Modesty, as she says, has seeped into the mainstream. Certainly, the Middle East is still extremely volatile, but this book explains the effects on the people who live there – those who looked on as their country changed around them and of how, so often, their world narrowed, became dangerous or unstable. It also shows that the reasons why religious fundamentalism suddenly became so widespread are not simply explained. Neither can the situation in the region simply be blamed on outside influences, but much stems from the pivotal year of 1979 and of the events that unfolded, with the ripples of that time still being widely felt.
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  • Geoffrey
    January 1, 1970
    (Note: I received an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley)For a while now I merely “knew” that a Saudi Arabia-Iran rivalry was one of the factors shaping the present-day Middle East. Now that I’ve completed “Black Wave,” I can see just how little I was actually grasping. Thanks to the intense research and work she has poured into her newest work, Kim Ghattas has made it incredibly clear that the Saudi-Iranian struggle isn’t just one factor behind current events - it has been the major molding (Note: I received an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley)For a while now I merely “knew” that a Saudi Arabia-Iran rivalry was one of the factors shaping the present-day Middle East. Now that I’ve completed “Black Wave,” I can see just how little I was actually grasping. Thanks to the intense research and work she has poured into her newest work, Kim Ghattas has made it incredibly clear that the Saudi-Iranian struggle isn’t just one factor behind current events - it has been the major molding force in the center of the Muslim world the past forty years. And not only does she provide badly needed education for readers the likes of myself, but Ghattas upends many a common assumption by plainly demonstrating how so much of the intense sectarian violence and religious extremism that has come to be so associated with the Middle East are far from old trends, and actually are relatively recent phenomenons that were birthed by the rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia. On top of all that, Ghattas deserves particular praise for putting a spotlight upon the Muslim world that has been lost as a result of the rivalry - a world that allowed for far greater freedom of expression, religious diversity, and until just a few decades ago was the norm until the hardliners at opposite ends of the fringes pushed for a narrative change and haven’t ever let up. Don’t let this book’s five hundred-odd pages intimidate. While this is indeed a detail-rich work, “Black Wave” is also a strongly cohesive (and not to mention riveting) narrative that is focused intimately through the lens of a range of key women and men who have been a part of the seismic changes that have been rocking their nations, faith and culture since 1979. The time and effort needed for “Black Wave” will very much be worth it, as this is definitely one of the most clarifying and eye-opening historical reads you’ll have the good fortune to encounter this year.
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  • Steven Z.
    January 1, 1970
    Four years ago, I read Kim Ghattas’ account of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s tenure at Foggy Bottom. The book was personal, clear, concise and analytical. Her latest book, BLACK WAVE: SAUDI ARABIA, IRAN, AND THE FORTY-YEAR RIVALRY THAT UNRAVELED CULTURE, RELIGION, AND COLLECTIVE MEMORY piqued my interest in light of recent events. Iran’s attack on Saudi oil fields, the proxy war in Yemen between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Iran’s machinations dealing with shipping in the Persian Gulf, and Four years ago, I read Kim Ghattas’ account of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s tenure at Foggy Bottom. The book was personal, clear, concise and analytical. Her latest book, BLACK WAVE: SAUDI ARABIA, IRAN, AND THE FORTY-YEAR RIVALRY THAT UNRAVELED CULTURE, RELIGION, AND COLLECTIVE MEMORY piqued my interest in light of recent events. Iran’s attack on Saudi oil fields, the proxy war in Yemen between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Iran’s machinations dealing with shipping in the Persian Gulf, and President Trump’s recent order resulting in the assassination of Qassim Suleimani, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, and the head of its Quds force makes the book extremely timely, but also very important as we seek to understand events in the most explosive region in the world trying to discern how the competition between the world’s leading Sunni and Shi’a countries will unfold.Ghattas’ task is a difficult one, but she has met the challenge by presenting the relevant facts, personalities, theological ideologies, and major power interests in the area. She is able to break down the apparent and hidden complexities involved in the Saudi-Iran relationship and provides numerous insights.In 2001, David W. Lesch wrote a short volume, 1979: THE YEAR THAT SHAPED THE MIDDLE EAST arguing that events that year; the rise to power of Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran; the seizure of American hostages; the occupation of the Holy Mosque in Mecca by radical students and Islamists; and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan all created a watershed for the Middle East and the world balance of power. Ghattas builds upon Lesch’s hypothesis and argues that 1979 began a process that transformed societies and altered cultural and religious currents in the region fostering an evolution that bears little resemblance to what existed before. For Ghattas, the year 1979 and the forty years that followed witnessed “the Saudi-Iran rivalry that went beyond geopolitics, descending into an ever-greater competition for Islamic legitimacy through religious and cultural domination, changing societies from within – not only in Saudi Arabia and Iran, but throughout the region.” The influence of this rivalry spread to Pakistan, Lebanon, Syria, and Afghanistan and unleashed sectarian identities and killings that had never defined these countries in the past.Ghattas’ approach is to present her material in a clear and concise manner that is easily understood by the laymen as well as scholars. She begins in 1974 focusing on events in Iran under the Shah and the plight of the Palestinians and the emergence of Ayatollah Khomeini and his vision for an Islamic state. She explains the developing opposition to the Shah and the revolution that seemed to begin in 1977 with the death of Ali Shariati, a leftist Muslim revolutionary. The blame for the death fell on SAVAK, the Shah’s internal security service exacerbating the public outcry. In exile in Paris, Khomeini prepared cassette tapes of his ideas and promises which were smuggled into Iran provided a vehicle to chip away at the Shah’s popularity and reach the masses to foster revolution. Once Khomeini replaced the Shah, Ghattas details how his movement consolidated power; founded the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corporation; dealt with foreign movements like the Moslem Brotherhood, the creation of Hezbollah or “Party of Guard;” Khomeini’s uncompromising approach to government and gaining the approval of the Iranian people; and of course the many important personalities involved. In creating the Islamic Republic, a tightly organized authoritarian regime, more repressive and murderous than the Shah’s emerges. Mass shootings resulted, students and clerics disappeared, newspapers shut down, and emissaries were sent throughout the Middle East to foster a regional movement led by the Shi’a.Ghattas does a wonderful job unearthing information that was not generally known before as well as refocus on concepts and arguments that now appear acceptable with hindsight. First, the role of Yasir Arafat and how he developed a relationship with Khomeini from the outset hoping to gain support for his war against Israel. Khomeini would use Arafat for his own ends and never really earned the support he craved as only weapons and training were provided. Another example involves Saddam Hussein who wanted to kill Khomeini but would not act without agreement of the Shah. The Shah would refuse, and one could only imagine how history would have unfolded had he agreed. Ghattas also argues that though Khomeini did not order the seizure of the American Embassy in Teheran, feeling pressure from nationalists, Marxist students, and others who hated the United States dating to the assassination of Mohamad Mosaddeq in 1953 he would manipulate the situation for his benefit by publicizing his radical credentials.Ghattas employs a number of individuals to create her narrative about important events. The seizure and occupation of the Holy Mosque in Mecca is told through the eyes of Sami Angawi, an architect and lover of history who describes the changes in Saudi Arabia after the 1973 Oil embargo and the massive wealth that flowed to the Saudi royal family. The zealots who took the mosque wanted the country to cut ties to the west, expel all foreigners, redistribute the oil wealth to the poor, and remove the House of Saud and their clerics who failed to uphold the purity of Islam. For the Saudi royal family this reflected weakness and they needed to counter the move to place the holy sites in Medina and Mecca under the trusteeship of the Moslem world.The author does a nice job comparing the cultural changes in Saudi Arabia and Iran. In the case of Saudi Arabia, it was a case of arrested development, in Iran it felt like whiplash as a violent and dramatic undoing of decades of social, political, and cultural advancement that took place under the Shah was gutted. Khomeini created a cultural revolution accompanied by a reign of terror. Ghattas correctly points out that “these revolutions were amplified by the bitter rivalry that emerged that same year between two countries that had once been allies, a rivalry born out of Khomeini’s desire to upstage the Saudis as the leaders of the Moslem world.All the events of 1979 seemed to be linked. After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 the Saudi government fresh from the embarrassment of the Holy Mosque seizure, its recapture and its high death toll saw an opportunity to recoup its lost image by supporting and championing a move against “godless communists,” in addition it provided a vehicle to send radicals outside the country to fight against the infidels.Ghattas describes the relationship between Hafez al-Assad, the Syrian strongman and Khomeini which portends a great deal for the future destruction of Syria that we are witnessing today. In 1982 when Assad crushed the Moslem Brotherhood and killed over 15,000 people in Hama, Khomeini just stood by. Though Khomeini was an Islamist, he was also a pragmatist and with Assad, an Alawite (a sect of Islam that made up about 15% of the Syrian population) an alliance with Shi’a Iran was formed that continues to this day.Saddam Hussein witnessed the instability in Iran and began to expel Iraqi Shi’a, placed clerics under house arrest, brutalized the Kurds, leftists, and anyone who opposed his regime. After Saddam executed Ayatollah Mohammad Bager al-Sadr, the “Iraqi Khomeini,” Khomeini called for Saddam’s overthrow. On September 22, 1980, Saddam declared war on Iran as the Iraqi military deemed Iran weak, isolated and unable to defend itself. Saddam believed he could win a quick war cutting Khomeini’s ambitions down to size. As we know the war would continue for most of the decade causing hundreds of thousands of deaths.Events in Egypt also would come to a head in 1979 as President Anwar Sadat took the gamble of recognizing Israel and agreeing to the Camp David Accords as a means of gaining US aid with his economy disintegrating and the poor ready to take to the streets. Ghattas describes her narrative through Nageh Ibrahim, a medieval studies student who helped create Gama ‘a, a radical Moslem organization that was gaining strength believed that Sadat’s negotiations went too far, particularly as it left out the Palestinians. By 1981 opposition to Sadat had increased especially with the purge of 3000 Islamists, leftists, and socialists including journalists, feminists and others. Sadat had managed to unite disparate groups to assassinate him. The killing was carried out by Gama’a who believed conservative Egyptian society was ready for a revolution. It was not as the military under Hosni Mubarak would retain power. Interestingly Ghattas argues the killing of Sadat had less to do with religion because he was a pious Moslem, he called himself the “believer president,” and more to do with the attempt to seize power by radical Islamists. What is increasingly clear as one digests Ghattas’ narrative, if 1979 was a turning point, 1980 was the point of no return.Ghattas offers clear explanations as she discusses the disparate relationships among the leading characters she explores; in addition to their policies, beliefs, actions, governments they led and movements they represented. Whether analyzing the strategies of Khomeini, Saddam, Assad, Arafat, or Saudi princes she is able to link their narrative to each other reflecting the powder keg the Iranian Revolution sparked in the Middle East. Events in Lebanon and Pakistan in the 1980s and 1990s fit well into her narrative. Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, “Operation Peace for Galilee” would contribute to the fracturing of Lebanese society. Iran would take a major role as they ensconced themselves in the Beqaa Valley with the Syrian army and Hezbollah would ramp up its participation in Lebanese society into the poor areas of Beirut. In Pakistan the 1980s witnessed a proxy war between followers of Iran and Saudi Arabia which would result in Shi’a-Sunni sectarian violence as the ideological war spread. Ghattas tells the story of their differences through the eyes of Allama Ehson Elahu Zaheer who attended an Islamic University in Medina and Allama Arif Hussaini who studied in Najaf and was a follower of Khomeini. Saudi Arabia had a great deal of influence in Pakistan with longstanding ties to Pakistani clerics like Maarout Dawalibi who became a pseudo advisor to the Saudi leaderships well as Jamatt-eIslami a radical Pakistani Moslem organization. In February 1979, General Zia-ul-Haq, who overthrew Prime Minister Zulfikar ali Bhutto imposed Shari’a law on Pakistan and Daealibi wrote the new legal code. Pakistan experienced a cultural revolution similar to what occurred in Saudi Arabia and Iran, but Zia would become an ally of the US against the Soviets in Afghanistan as he needed American and Saudi support for his survival. Pakistan had a tradition of using religion as a balm to soften defeat, i.e.; the loss of East Pakistan in 1971, the overthrow of Bhutto in July 1977, and its overall relationship with India. Pakistan’s radicalization is linked to Peshawar, a city near the Afghanistan border which became a center for radical mujahedeen fighting the Soviet Union. It was also the location for Ayman Zawahiri, an Egyptian doctor who was implicated and jailed for his role in Sadat’s assassination who later would become number two to Osama Bin-Laden in the al-Qaeda hierarchy who would move his family to Peshawar in the mid-1980s. Peshawar would become the nerve center for Arab jihad. As Ghattas astutely remarks, if Beirut was the supermarket of the left in the 1970s for Palestinians, Iraqis, Egyptians and Marxists, then Peshawar was the supermarket of the Islamists in the 1980s where “Islamic law, fatwas, the war of the believers, the unity of the Muslim nation, and the humanitarian needs of Afghan refugees” was discussed and acted upon.As Saudi money poured into Peshawar, Zia allowed Saudi charities to build hundreds of madrassas, religious seminaries along the border with Afghanistan that taught the exclusionary teachings of fundamentalist schools of Saudi puritanism. Many of the graduates of these schools became the core of the Taliban in the 1990s. Ghattas writes that “the Saudis were helping to create an environment in which ideas and actions could be taken to the extreme, and they were blinded to the consequences of their creation because they could not recognize the intolerance of their own ideology,” a problem that haunts us in 2020.Ghattas comes to a number of important conclusions with the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan which the Saudis took a great deal of credit. Teheran wanted a say in the post war period but when they were not able to impose their will Khomeini unleashed a culture war by calling for the death of Salman Rushdie for his depiction of Mohammad in his book SATANIC VERSES. Another major point was the removal of Saddam’s forces from Kuwait. President Bush made a grave error by allowing the Syrians to dominate the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon along with their Hezbollah ally in return for Damascus’ support against Saddam. The American presence in Saudi Arabia because of the war was part of the impetus for Osama Bin-Laden and the creation of al-Qaeda as “the infidels” seemed all over the kingdom. The Saudis had their own culture war with women and radical clerics continued to rail against the royal family. Ghattas is dead pointing out that “until 1979, the kings had bent that product and the clerics to their will, keeping them in check. After 1979, the Wahhabi religious establishment had become king.”It is fascinating to explore the rapprochement that was reached between the Saudis and Iran following the death of Khomeini. They did share a common interest that trumped their ideological differences as Teheran wanted to lessen the Sunni-Shi’a rift to allow greater access to the holy places in Mecca. Even the Al-Khobar Towers bombing by Hezbollah elements did not cause a renewed rift. But dark forces existed on both sides that hampered a continuation of any honeymoon. For Iran supporters of Khomeini’s revolution remained in power – the Revolutionary Guards, Hezbollah, and radical clerics. On the Saudi side money was used to pursue an anti-western ideology in the madrassas and they continued to fund radical clerics throughout the region as well as the remaining mujahedeen from the Afghan War.This review continues at www.docs-book.com for another page. I apologize for its length, but the subject matter is vast and important.
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  • Peter Beck
    January 1, 1970
    This is a timely and critically important book on the deepening tragedy that is the Middle East. Lebanese journalist Kim Ghattas explains the region through the prism of the Iran-Saudi Arabia rivalry. She brings these two rich civilizations (and their neighbors) to life by showing them through the eyes of colorful individuals challenging the status quo. Her focal point is 1979. The year opened with the Iran’s Islamic Revolution and closed with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In between, the This is a timely and critically important book on the deepening tragedy that is the Middle East. Lebanese journalist Kim Ghattas explains the region through the prism of the Iran-Saudi Arabia rivalry. She brings these two rich civilizations (and their neighbors) to life by showing them through the eyes of colorful individuals challenging the status quo. Her focal point is 1979. The year opened with the Iran’s Islamic Revolution and closed with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In between, the House of Saud survived a fundamentalist coup attempt. These three events would unleash what Ghattas calls a “Black Wave” of Islamic fundamentalism and war. Three lessons I took from “Black Wave”: 1.) Muslim reformers are fighting a losing battle with extremists.2.) The Middle East is its own worst enemy (not Israel and/or the United States).3.) U.S. involvement in the Middle East almost always makes things worse. The three most interesting people Ghattas profiles:1.) Quassem Suleimani, Iranian military leader assassinated by Trump last month2.) Masih Alinejad, Iranian exile in the U.S. fighting forced veiling3.) Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi journalist butchered by his government in 2018Middle Eastern Leader Most Like Trump: Saddam Hussein -- Flamboyance + False PietyBiggest Omission: No discussion of the Iranian Hostage Crisis. This was very much tied to the 1979 Revolution and defined Iran for me as a kid. I visited Egypt and Palestine in the early 1990s, so I have been following the region for almost 30 years, but this was my first book. Consequently, there were a few chapters where I found myself swimming in a sea of names and unfamiliar Arabic/Persian terms. Fortunately, Ghattas rewards us neophytes with wonderful writing, characters, and insights. I wish I could share the optimism Ghattas expresses in her Conclusion, but almost all of her heroes are either dead or in exile. Unfortunately, I cannot discern a pathway out of the darkness. I will be peppering my Iranian-American hiking buddies with questions on our next hike!
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  • Miguel
    January 1, 1970
    This is an excellent introduction to the recent history of the Middle East weaving together the relationships between the various actors (countries and significant figures) and the ideologies as they respectively grew ascendant in each region. It’s eye opening in terms of the Shia-Sunni rivalry and how it wasn’t always this way but rather formed from both internal and outside influences. The pivotal episodes that occurred around ’79 are given particular detail and even if you were alive at this This is an excellent introduction to the recent history of the Middle East weaving together the relationships between the various actors (countries and significant figures) and the ideologies as they respectively grew ascendant in each region. It’s eye opening in terms of the Shia-Sunni rivalry and how it wasn’t always this way but rather formed from both internal and outside influences. The pivotal episodes that occurred around ’79 are given particular detail and even if you were alive at this time it’s a great refresher and sews together a lot of the different threads that were occurring. It’s difficult to find any fault from the perspective of someone who didn’t have an understanding of what has sowed the seeds of conflict from deep or more recent historical developments. Ghattas stays broad at times and in other times does the appropriate deeper dive. This is one I would like to revisit in the future.
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  • Scott Whitmore
    January 1, 1970
    “What happened to us?” are the first words in Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year Rivalry That Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the Middle East, and author Kim Ghattas does an exceptional job of answering the question. I learned so much from this highly readable book, and gained insight and perspective on the things I already knew. The author effectively uses the stories of different people around the region to examine the origins and short- and long-term “What happened to us?” are the first words in Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year Rivalry That Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the Middle East, and author Kim Ghattas does an exceptional job of answering the question. I learned so much from this highly readable book, and gained insight and perspective on the things I already knew. The author effectively uses the stories of different people around the region to examine the origins and short- and long-term impacts of key events including the Iranian Revolution, the Lebanese Civil War, and the Arab Spring, to name just a few. Black Wave is an outstanding primer for those wanting to know more about the Middle East, and especially how today’s status came to be.
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  • Kaveh
    January 1, 1970
    This book was truly a mini-course on the modern history of the Middle East, seen through the IRAN-Saudi rivalry. The book is very well researched and the narrative is elegantly written. I did not feel that every piece of history discussed in the book was directly linked to IRAN-Saudi conflict, however, they all contributed to the understanding of the complexity of the region and the regional context in which major events of the last four decades have shaped. I would definitely nominate this book This book was truly a mini-course on the modern history of the Middle East, seen through the IRAN-Saudi rivalry. The book is very well researched and the narrative is elegantly written. I did not feel that every piece of history discussed in the book was directly linked to IRAN-Saudi conflict, however, they all contributed to the understanding of the complexity of the region and the regional context in which major events of the last four decades have shaped. I would definitely nominate this book for Pulitzer 2020.
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  • Matthew Trevithick
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 stars - 4 for a complicated story well told, and one more for the idea of centering around 1979, a subject of strong research interest to me.
  • Rory Hills
    January 1, 1970
    I thought this was outstanding. I have read a good deal about the Middle East but most of it about the last century ending circa 1970. The creation of Israel and the Suez Crisis being key moments but much to do with French, British and American interference and conniving in the need to secure oil to power their economies and fight two world wars. What was striking in all these books was how little is mentioned of Sunni and Shia sectarianism. James Barr - an author of two of the books I have read I thought this was outstanding. I have read a good deal about the Middle East but most of it about the last century ending circa 1970. The creation of Israel and the Suez Crisis being key moments but much to do with French, British and American interference and conniving in the need to secure oil to power their economies and fight two world wars. What was striking in all these books was how little is mentioned of Sunni and Shia sectarianism. James Barr - an author of two of the books I have read (and excellent they both are too!) said that this was because whilst the Sunni / Shia schism has existed for a millennia, it was not - by and large - a significant factor or issue pre 1979. What Black Wave does so well is explain how in 1979 - in part driven by the Iranian revolution but also by significant events in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia - ancient and long buried ills resurfaced in an every perpetuating viscous circle of fear and loathing. No country comes out well from this. Black Wave reads like a thriller: it is an absolute page turner whilst also being highly informative. I have learned an enormous amount about what has driven the Middle East over the past 50 years and whilst, in the main, it makes for very depressing reading at least I can now put much of what is going on into context.
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  • Baxter يزبك
    January 1, 1970
    Very refreshing! The first non Israel-centric book about the Middle East.i don’t know how many months and years of research the Author (ex-BBC Reporter) has invested here. But the result is amazing. A must read for anyone who wants to know what happened in 1979 in both Iran and KSA and it unfolded a black wave... this can be understood as women covered in black cloth from top to bottom or, if u are European, black is the color of fascism. I think the book qualifies to be included in curriculums Very refreshing! The first non Israel-centric book about the Middle East.i don’t know how many months and years of research the Author (ex-BBC Reporter) has invested here. But the result is amazing. A must read for anyone who wants to know what happened in 1979 in both Iran and KSA and it unfolded a black wave... this can be understood as women covered in black cloth from top to bottom or, if u are European, black is the color of fascism. I think the book qualifies to be included in curriculums in schools in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Pakistan. The story starts in Beirut/Tyre with Moussa Sadr, a Charismatic yet Liberal Shia Cleric whose movement was hijacked by the Black wave, continues to a revolution in KSA where a Hijazi tribe signs a deal with both radical clerics and the USA to cement its rule and create a similar but competing Black wave. The 2 “puritans” as the author calls them will fight for superlatives the next 40 years.1979 was a turning point that affected my life, the life of the Author and many many millions. This book tries to answer the question :”What happened to us”
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  • Blake Loomis
    January 1, 1970
    Despite being a history teacher, I knew far less about everything going on in the Middle East than I should. Far, far less. This book does an excellent job explaining all the nuances and humanizing the impact of everything going on. The book is simultaneously helped by ignoring the U.S. presence in the Middle East. It is mentioned, for sure, and the impact of the presence is not glossed over, but as a book about the Middle East, the book focuses on just that: the people and cultures of the Despite being a history teacher, I knew far less about everything going on in the Middle East than I should. Far, far less. This book does an excellent job explaining all the nuances and humanizing the impact of everything going on. The book is simultaneously helped by ignoring the U.S. presence in the Middle East. It is mentioned, for sure, and the impact of the presence is not glossed over, but as a book about the Middle East, the book focuses on just that: the people and cultures of the Middle East. I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in international affairs, revolutions/oppression, the Middle East, or even just people and what we're capable of doing, both good and bad.
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  • Brian
    January 1, 1970
    This book provides an illuminating background to the progression of the primary Islamic states from their recent origins to their current political and religious positions.The author adds context to these counties evolution over the recent decades and how they influence the directions taken by each country as a reaction to the influence, or lack of, their competing states.The focus is on the Islamic states and not on the impact or influence of the western powers.As the author concludes, there is This book provides an illuminating background to the progression of the primary Islamic states from their recent origins to their current political and religious positions.The author adds context to these counties evolution over the recent decades and how they influence the directions taken by each country as a reaction to the influence, or lack of, their competing states.The focus is on the Islamic states and not on the impact or influence of the western powers.As the author concludes, there is hope that the many local activists across the globe will succeed on moving these states back to their previous levels of moderation and emancipation. Levels that I was unaware were present in money of these countries.Highly recommended reading.
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  • Michael
    January 1, 1970
    Brilliantly ambitious and beautifully written. Provides a comprehensive understanding of how the Middle East has changed in the past 40 years. At its best in the sections on Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and when it focuses on individual stories. Loses some clarity in trying to explain the various factions, and personalities, operating in Iran and Syria.
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  • Yasizinho Yas
    January 1, 1970
    I blew through that one. As an information sponge the pace of the novel was on my level, doing well to situate and coordinate regional shifts and balances/imbalances, cultural and nationalistic. I did want more depth at times. More texture.
  • Magnus Halsnes
    January 1, 1970
    Boka skisserer opp ei forteljing, eller fleire forteljingar, om «svart bølgjer» som oppstår i ulike delar av Midtausten. Desse bølgjene er brukt som eit bilete på det aukande fokuset på religion i regionen frå 1970-talet og fram til i dag. Rivaliseringa mellom Saudi-Arabia og Iran står sentralt, som undertittelen avslører, og Ghattas set difor av ein del tid på revolusjonen i Iran og konsekvensane av okkupasjonen av moskeen i Mekka i 1979. Ho vier òg ein del tid til Zia-ul-Haq sitt styre i Boka skisserer opp ei forteljing, eller fleire forteljingar, om «svart bølgjer» som oppstår i ulike delar av Midtausten. Desse bølgjene er brukt som eit bilete på det aukande fokuset på religion i regionen frå 1970-talet og fram til i dag. Rivaliseringa mellom Saudi-Arabia og Iran står sentralt, som undertittelen avslører, og Ghattas set difor av ein del tid på revolusjonen i Iran og konsekvensane av okkupasjonen av moskeen i Mekka i 1979. Ho vier òg ein del tid til Zia-ul-Haq sitt styre i Pakistan i same periode. Ghattas baserer seg mykje på personlege historier og forteljingar, henta fram frå historiske kjelder eller intervju. Desse personlege historiene er styrka til boka. Ghattas unngår slik å berre gjengi alle dei typiske og rimeleg kjende politiske forteljingane som ein ofte får servert i slike bøker. Det største ankepunktet ved boka er likevel at det kjendest ut som eg har lese den før, og at den byr på lite eigentleg nytt stoff eller vinklingar. [Basert på lydbokversjonen av boka]
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  • Christine Young
    January 1, 1970
    It is an interesting premise, and including Pakistan in the mix helped tie the theologies together but it just came apart at the end.
  • Alexander Kasterine
    January 1, 1970
    Brilliant - to understand the split between Iran and Saudi Arabia and want it has meant for the region since 1979
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